Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2015

The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2015 will be held from Wednesday, 29th July to Saturday, 1st August.

A preliminary programme of events will be uploaded to this site as soon as possible.

We look forward to this year’s festival and hope you will be able to join us in Cork on those dates.

Cork Mother Jones Committee

Anne Feeney update

Anne Feeney group 2014

Anne Feeney group 2014 

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is delighted that singer songwriter and activist Anne Feeney has been enjoying good health. In her recent newsletter she has recalled the terrific time she had in Ireland in 2014 when she brought her tour to Shandon for the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival for the first time. She has just announced that she is planning “another one for the summer of 2016″. Anne introduced a fabulous group of people to the festival and to the local community and all played their part in making the festival a great success. We look forward to meeting up again in 2016, where they will be most welcome in Shandon.
So to Maya, Anne, Paddy, Mark, Jane, Julien, Melodi,Jeff, Joan, Laura 1, Dori, Nina, Marjie, Dan, Dorrie, Sue, Bonnie, Laura 2, Vickie, Leah, Ray and Martha we send our best wishes and thank you all for coming to Cork and making a difference. Hope to see you all back soon again.

The Limerick Soviet

Limerick Strike Proclamation

Limerick Strike Proclamation

A new documentary, The Limerick Soviet, which has been produced by Frameworks Films, the Cork based film production company in collaboration with the Limerick Council of Trade Unions will be shown at the Maldron Hotel, Cork as part of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Friday evening 31st July at 5.30pm.

This documentary tells the thrilling story of a workers rising in Limerick in April 1919 when a general strike was called by the Limerick United Trades and Labour Council.

It followed the deaths on the 6th April of Robert Byrne, a local trade union activist and IRA member, as well as a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary, during an audacious escape attempt from custody by Byrne.As a result the British Authorities declared Limerick City a Special Military Area (SMA) whereby military restrictions would applyand permits were required to enter and leave.

The Limerick United Trades and Labour Council refused to accept that the workers of Limerick required permits to come and go to work and declared a general strike. Some 14,000 workers answered the strike call on Monday 14th April 1919. The Strike committee took control of the city and as a self- governing committee declared itself a Soviet. It was a highly effective, disciplined and a well organised operation under the leadership of John Cronin, a carpenter and Chairperson of the Trades Council.

John Cronin and his committee organised and supervised the distribution of food, transport, communications and movement in the City and even printed its own currency during the period. The strike received unprecedented international media coverage owing to the presence of journalists covering an international air race.

Limerick Trades Council

Members of Limerick Trades Council 1919

Eventually following negotiations and due to Church pressure and the lack of wider national union support, the Soviet decided on a full return to work by the 25th April and the SMA was abolished a few days later.

The Soviet was remarkable in its organisation, in its general unity of workers and in the courage and solidarity of the workers and trade unions. The words of Mother Jones on her death bed could be applied to this Limerick Soviet in that the workers of Limerick “showed the world what the workers can do”.

The Trades Council affirmed the right of workers to come and go from their employment without hindrance by the national authorities. It also displayed to the British Authorities and the Republican movement the potential power of organised labour and its potent force for action when provoked.

Limerick Soviet 10 Shilling note

Ten Shilling note issued by the Limerick Strike Committee

This compelling documentary was produced with the support of the Sound and Vision Scheme, an initiative of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland

Mr Mike McNamara President of the Limerick Council of Trade Unions along with the film makers Emma Bowell and Eddie Noonan of Frameworks Films will introduce the documentary at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. It will be followed by an open discussion.

It takes place at the Maldron Hotel in Shandon on Friday evening 31st July 2015 at 5.30 pm. 

All are welcome.

Can’t Scare Me… the story of Mother Jones

Kaiulani Lee visited Cork for the inaugural Mother Jones Festival. She promised to return to perform her one woman play Can’t Scare Me…The Story of Mother Jones. Ms Lee has confirmed for the 2015 festival and will perform at the Firkin Crane on Friday 31st July. 

Kaiulani Lee

Kaiulani Lee

Kaiulani Lee has over 35 years’ experience in theatre, film and television. She has guest starred on numerous television series from “The Waltons” to “Law & Order” and has also worked in films such as “The World According to Garp”.

She has written and performed A Sense Of Wonder, based on the story of Rachel Carson. Carson who published the remarkable book Silent Spring in 1962, exposed and documented the use and effects of toxic chemicals as contained in pesticides, fungicides and herbicides on wildlife and the environment. Although savagely attacked by the chemical industry at the time, the environmental truths about the balance in nature she identified remain valid.  To witness Kaiulani Lee perform in “A Sense of Wonder” is to get a true sense and vision of Ms. Carson’s very soul. Her sensitive and intimate portrayal of Carson really is a wonder.

Her second play Can’t Scare Me…The Story of Mother Jones opened at the Atlas Theatre in Washington in 2011. The play written and performed by Ms Lee is drawn from Mother Jones’s own autobiography, her letters, speeches, interviews and transcripts.

The Washington Post described it as follows:

“Lee, a skilled performer, brings both gentleness and steel to her Mother Jones….the play engages our emotions and intellect, a tribute to actress and writer Lee and her subject….. a tart and handsomely wrought solo show”.

In performing at Shandon, Ms Lee will bring the passionate and tough rebel spirit of Mother Jones back to the very streets of her childhood in Rebel Cork.

Kaiulani Lee with Lord Mayor John Buttimer at Cork City Hall in 2012

Kaiulani Lee with Lord Mayor John Buttimer at Cork City Hall in 2012

Kaiulani Lee has been full-time adjunct professor at George Mason University from 1997 to the present and taught master classes at universities across the country.

In May 2014 Kaiulani spent an exhilarating two weeks travelling around America with the United Mine Workers who were commemorating the centennial of the mining wars. She performed for thousands of miners whose mining forebears worshipped Mother Jones.

During Oct/Nov 2014,Kaiulani spent some time in Bangladesh and Cambodia, where she performed, held workshops, listened and learned in the communities and workplaces in both countries. She hopes to share what she has learned and experienced through Can’t Scare Me and wishes people to realise that the very issues of exploitation which caused Mother Jones to organise the March of the Mill Children in 1903 remain very relevant today.

Kaiulani Lee

Kaiulani Lee

Ms Lee will perform Can’t Scare Me…..The Story of Mother Jones at the Firkin Crane on Friday 31st July at 8.30. Tickets will be available from mid-June.

Visit www.kaiulanilee.com


The Remarkable Story of Lily Boole

The Remarkable Story of Lily Boole



E.L. Voynich (Lily Boole)

Ethel Lilian Voynich

Author and journalist Alannah Hopkin will present the story of a remarkable Cork woman Ethel Boole otherwise known as Ethel Lilian Voynich or E.L.V. at the Maldron Hotel on Thursday 30th July at 2pm.

Ethel Lilian Boole was born at Lichfield Cottage in Ballintemple, Cork on 11th May 1864 and baptised on 31st May at the nearby St Michael’s Church on Church Road. Just over six months later her father the renowned mathematician George Boole died in Lichfield on December 8th.  Her mother Mary Everest took her and her four sisters to London where she grew up but came and went to Ireland. She lived for a time in Lancashire, England with her uncle Charles Boole who managed a coal mine.

In 1879, she spent a summer with her great uncle John Ryall (former Vice President of University College Cork) and developed an interest in the Italian political activist Giuseppe Mazzini from a book which she read. She later studied music at the Berlin Hochschule fűr Musik.

Dimitri Shostakovich's musical score for the Gadfly

Dimitri Shostakovich’s musical score for the Gadfly

Europe was in a ferment at the time and she became interested in the growing revolutionary movements in Russia. Lily spent two years travelling widely in Russia and witnessed the famine conditions of the peasants and workers. Deeply influenced by what she had seen she threw herself into the radical movements seeking to overthrow the Czar.  She met up with Peter Kropotkin and Sergei Kravchinski (Stepniak) who had fled Russia where he had assassinated Mezenter, the Tsarist Chief of Police.

Returning to London in 1889, along with Stepniak she published a monthly magazine entitled Free Russia. Later becoming active in the revolutionary socialist émigré milieu in London at the time she met Friedrich Engels, George Bernard Shaw, William Morris, Eleanor Marx, Edward Aveling and her own future husband Wilfred Michail Voynich who had earlier been imprisoned in the Warsaw Citadel. He had actually seen Lily through the bars of his cell standing in the square outside on Easter Sunday 1887 during her trip to Warsaw.

Lily learned Russian with Stepniak and became a fluent speaker, she also had fluent Polish and worked as a translator in both languages. Her translation of Chopin’s letter from Polish remains the standard edition.

Deeply immersed in Russian politics she returned clandestinely to Russia in 1894. Stepniak died in 1895 in a train accident and she seems to have drifted away from politics, possibly disillusioned with the revolutionary movement.

It is claimed she had a brief and passionate love affair with Sydney Reilly (Sigmund Rosenblum) whose incredible life story is described in Ace of Spies, written by Robin Bruce Lockhart in 1967.  Following her return from Florence to London she wrote her famous novel The Gadfly. The adventures of the Gadfly seem however to be based on Stepniak’s autobiographical novel Andrei Kozhukhov.

Allannah Hopkin

Author Alannah Hopkin

The Gadfly tells the story of Arthur Burton and Gemma Warren and their exploits in revolutionary Italy. Named after an insect, the gadfly, which burrows under an animal’s skin and has a vicious bite, it was published to mixed reviews in New York in 1897. The book later became a publishing phenomenon in Russia and China with millions of copies being sold and translations into many languages. Widely read throughout Europe, its love interest, revolutionary setting, anti-clerical vein and espionage mystery thriller characteristics ensured its appeal. Even today, almost 120 years later it remains a fresh and vibrant story.

Ethel wrote several other books and eventually joined her husband in New York in 1920. She lived quietly, teaching and composing music in New York after Wilfred died in 1930. She enjoyed some late fame when Pravda ran a story in the mid-50s about her presence in New York. She passed away there on the 27th July 1960 at the age of 96.

For further information see The Life and Work of George Boole, A Prelude to the Digital Age by Professor Desmond MacHale. Republished by Cork University Press 2014.

Alannah Hopkin will tell the story of Lily Boole “From Lily Boole to E. L. Voynich, the making of the author of The Gadfly” at the Maldron Hotel during this year’s Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

Ms Hopkin has published two novels A Joke Goes a Long Way in the Country and The Out-Haul.  Her non-fiction books include Eating Scenery: West Cork, the People & Place as well as Inside Cork. She is a tutor on Poetry Ireland’s, Writers in Schools Scheme, and has led writing workshops for adults up to MA level. She is currently working on a new novel set in West Cork, The Ballydevlin Hauntings.


See www.alannahhopkin.com

Fr. Peter McVerry to speak at Spirit of Mother Jones Festival

Fr. Peter McVerry will speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School on Thursday afternoon 30th July at the Firkin Crane. He will address the topic “Homelessness – AFailure of Social Policy”.

Fr. Peter McVerry.  Photo:  Degreezero

Fr. Peter McVerry. Photo: Degreezero

Fr. McVerry is an advocate on behalf of the homeless and of people who suffer from social disadvantage. A tireless and fearless campaigner for those who have no roof over their heads, he has resisted the easy complacency of our times as he speaks out repeatedly on an issue which many in power might like to ignore.

Born in 1944 in Belfast, he is a Jesuit priest and is probably one of the best known and respected clergymen in Ireland. He continues to emphasise that homeless people are ordinary people like the rest of us and we as a society must confront and solve the problem.

He points out that there is an average of six new people becoming homeless every day and the ongoing failure to address the lack of provision of new social housing and the escalating rents in the private sector continues to increase the problem. The Irish courts are now full of bank repossession orders and this will exacerbate the situation, as people lose their homes.

Fr Peter studied philosophy and theology in Milltown Park, as a young priest he witnessed at first hand the homelessness and poverty in Summerhill in Dublin. He established the Peter McVerry Trust in 1983 to tackle homelessness, drug misuse and social disadvantage. The Trust’s vision is of an Ireland that supports all those on the margins and upholds peoples’ right to inclusion in society. (www.pmvtrust.ie)

During 2013, some 3,586 individuals were supported by the Peter McVerry Trust.

Fr. Peter McVerry at Áras an Uachtarán with President Higgins

Fr. Peter McVerry at Áras an Uachtarán with President Higgins

He has warned of a “tsunami of homelessness washing over Ireland”, and he wants radical action taken to resolve it.  He believes political decisions need to be taken to solve this issue and describes the inability to do so as a failure of political will by those in charge.

The reduction in the construction of social housing, the eviction of people from their homes, the failure of landlords to take rent supplement are all contributing to the growing problem.

Addressing the recent Annual Human Rights Conference, Fr. McVerry commented as follows; “ Over the past 40 years, I have spent most of my weekends in the various Dublin prisons and a disproportionate percentage of people in prison were homeless prior to imprisonment and will be homeless again on release”.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is honoured that Fr. McVerry has agreed to address the summer school at Shandon.  All are welcome to attend.

Joe Hill – the man who never died!

Joe Hill (1879-1915)

Joe Hill

Joe Hill was executed by the State of Utah on the 19th November 1915. Born Joel  Hagglund in Gävle in Sweden on October 7th 1879,he went to America in 1902 and used the name Joe Hillstrom, which he shortened to Joe Hill.

Joe had been active for many years in the Industrial Workers of the World known as the Wobblies, and had gained a reputation as a writer of ballads. (Mother Jones had been the only woman present at the initial foundation IWW meetings in Chicago in 1905)

His trial for the murder of John G. Morrison and his son Arling a Salt Lake City grocer became a national event. His subsequent conviction aroused a huge campaign to save him, Helen Keller lent her support,even President Woodrow Wilson made two unsuccessful interventions to save him from the firing squad to no avail.

His supporters believe he was executed solely for his union activities, following an unfair trial, the State authorities denied this.

Joe Hill refused to cooperate with the trial and would not explain a bullet wound he had when he was arrested. It subsequently transpired that Joe was wounded following a confrontation with a rival, a fellow Swede, Otto Appelquist for the attentions of Hilda Erickson. William M. Adler in a recent book The Man Who Never Died (Published by Bloomsbury 2011) named the most likely murderer of the Morrisons, a man the authorities had earlier arrested but subsequently released.

Why did Hill not explain how and why he was wounded, which would have provided the alibi required? Would it have mattered anyway as the authorities seemed hell bent on attacking the Wobblies? Did he come to believe that he was freer in death as a hero and a martyr rather than continue a life as an impoverished labourer? The arguments have gone on for a hundred years. His principled if perhaps reckless stand has been long debated in union circles.

Joe Hill book cover

Joe Hill book cover

“Big Jim” Larkin gave the final oration over Joe Hill’s grave and read from the letter Hill sent to his friend Elizabeth Gurley Flynn who had led the campaign to free him (even visiting the White House!). Larkin urged those present to ensure that “his blood should cement the many divided sections” of the Labour movement.

Alfred Hayes wrote and Eric Robinson put music to the Ballad of Joe Hill in 1936 and Paul Robeson performed it in Carnegie Hall. Joan Baez sang it at Woodstock in 1969. Joe Hill has inspired generations of singers;from Guthrie to Dylan, from Utah Philips to Billy Bragg, from Anne Feeney to Si Kahn…….Joe Hill lives on “where workingmen are out on strike, Joe Hill is at their side”. Here in Ireland Luke Kelly is well remembered for his version.

The Rebel Girl

The Rebel Girl, dedicated by Joe Hill to Elizabeth Gurley-Flynn

Joe Hill wrote some very important songs himself. He was one of an IWW group of songwriters and poets such as Ralph Chapin (Solidarity Forever) and Jim Connell (The Red Flag) who contributed to the Little Red Song Book.  His best known song is the “Preacher and the Slave” from which the phrase “pie in the sky” originates, sung to the tune of “Sweet Bye and Bye”.

He wrote “The Rebel Girl” for Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, while another of his compositions “Casey Jones – the Union Scab”quickly became a favourite among striking railroad men. “The Tramp” resonates with the thud of aimless walking and despair of unemployment, while “Down in the Old Dark Mill” contrasts a lost fleeting Mill romance with the brutal lasting consequences of a factory injury. His own father had died following an industrial accident involving a train when Joel was 8 years old.

During the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2015, we hope to commemorate the life, death and the legacy of the songs of Joe Hill as we approach the 100th anniversary of his execution. All are welcome to participate with a Joe Hill or union song on Saturday night 1st August from 9pm.

The Durham Miners’ Gala 2015

Durham Gala crowds

Procession of bands and banners and some of the 100,000 who attended the Durham Miners’ Gala 2014

The 131st Durham Miners Gala will take place on Saturday July 11th 2015. Organised by the Durham Miners’ Association, the parade through the beautiful city of Durham, the subsequent Big Meeting and the blessing of miners’ banners in Durham Cathedral remain one off the greatest manifestations of trade union, labour and community solidarity in Western Europe.

The 2014 Gala, attended by over 100,000 people was a striking panoramaof banners, colour, music and good humour and drew a vast concourse of people of all ages to the city. The parade took some five hours to pass the County Hotel and down the old Elvet.

Not to be missed at the Gala are the speeches at the Old Racecourse which commence in the early afternoon, a location which houses hundreds of stalls, campaigning groups, unions, food, and plenty room for a picnic on the banks of the lovely River Wear as one watches the colliery brass bands and the banners arrive until the entire surroundings of the Racecourse are encased in the spectacular and vivid colours of the banners. This living tapestry confirms its obvious sense of community, heritage and solidarity which has outlasted those who once claimed “there is no such thing as society”.

Politicians such as Tony Benn, Dennis Skinner, Neil Kinnock, and Ed Miliband have stood here, trade union leaders Bob Crowe and Jim Larkin, singer Billy Bragg stood here and like countless others since 1871 have spoken to the assembled throng.In 1914, Larkin like a harbinger of doom warned miners’ against any foolishness in trusting leaders and politicians. A week later Britain was at war with Germany and the miners’ banners were not unfurled until 1919.

Big Jim Larkin

Big Jim Larkin

By way of backdrop, high on the overlooking Durham nestles one of the greatest Churches ever built, begun by Bishop Carileph in the 11th century, Durham Cathedral has witnessed human history unfold for almost a millennium, yet the annual blessing of the miners banners ranks as a truly awe inspiring ceremony and should not be missed by anyone attending the Gala.

In 2014 new banners from the Tow Law, South Shields St Hilda, Fenhall Drift, New Brancepeth, Lanchester and the Leamside and West Rainton communities were presented and dedicated following their journey to the altar behind the miners’ bands in a dignified, moving and solemn ceremony. Labour/Community and Church working together in a seamlessand common purpose recognising the men and women in working class communities who built Britain.

Near the south door to the Cathedral Cloister is the Miners’ Memorial. Erected in 1947 it is inscribed ”Remember before God the Durham Miners who have given their lives in the Pits of this country and those who work in Darkness and Danger in those pits today” The last pit in Durham closed in 1994, but the Gala and remembering goes on.

Durham city is in celebration for the day and if one wants to see the true heartbeat of labour, the legacy of the mining communities and the hope that one day the workers will bring about a just and fairer world, the “grander civilisation” of Mother Jones, then a visit to the Durham Gala is essential.

Dave Hopper of Durham Miners Gala

Dave Hopper of the Durham Miner’s Gala at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, Cork in 2014

General Secretary of the Durham Miners Association, Dave Hopper attended the Spirit of Mother Jones festival in Cork and explained the history and the purpose of the Gala. Dave issued an open invite to all those interested in the legacy of Mother Jones to come along to Durham on Saturday 11th July 2015.

For details visit www.durhamminers.org. Why not visit the site and become a Friend of the Durham Miners Gala? There are direct flights to Newcastle from Cork and Dublin, Durham is but a short train journey away!